Today’s guest blogger is Merrianne Timko, an HMNS volunteer and a culinary historian. In honor of our upcoming event “Imperial Dining with the Tsars” in the Grand Salon of La Colombe d’Or, Merrianne is sharing a brief history of Russian cuisine and how it was influenced by other European nations.
|Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia|
The letters and diaries of Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia, make frequent reference to the many informal and formal dining events that played such a significant role in his royal and personal life. Lunches, dinners, afternoon teas, and gala suppers marked his courtship of Alexandra. Many of the events they later shared – marriage, the coronation of Nicholas II, the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty, and post-Revolution captivity, are documented by surviving menus that reflect the popularity of French cuisine in Russia.
Peter the Great’s reforms to modernize Russia included the introduction of European cuisine into Russia. Catherine the Great patronized French culture and cuisine at her court. Many famous French chefs staffed the kitchens of Russian royalty and diplomats. Russia, however, proved a challenge to these French chefs – the climate was often too cold, and it was necessary to adapt French recipes to the local Russian ingredients, cultural traditions, and religious fasting.
Yet, French cuisine was not reserved only for the wealthy of Russia. With the publication of Elena Molokhovets’ cookbook A Gift to Young Housewives in 1861, women of modest households could prepare simpler versions of expensive dishes, serve them in a refined manner, and ensure the happiness and welfare of their families. By the time of the Russian Revolution in 1917, over 250,000 of her cookbooks had been sold.
The Romanov dynasty and famous Russians also inspired the names of many French dishes which were later translated into English. Examples of such dishes include Strawberries Romanoff, Beef Stroganoff, and Veal Orloff. When Grand Duke Alexei visited the United States as a Russian goodwill ambassador in 1871, the French chef of Delmonico’s restaurant in New York City created “Duke Alexis Lobster and Crawfish Soup” in his honor.
“Imperial Dining with the Tsars” will explore the fascinating history of Franco-Russian cuisine in the elegant Grand Salon of La Colombe d’Or. Join us for this extravagant dinner on March 23, 2010. Reserve your tickets here.